Mother-infant attachment begins long before birth (Peppers & Knapp, 1980). Bonding and attachment can start as early as the fantasy of having children and a family develops, which can be as early as childhood. When young women imagine their roles as mothers they are subconsciously preparing themselves for their desired future role as mothers. Becoming pregnant becomes a goal when women begin taking steps to conceive; at this time the process of bonding has begun (Peppers & Knapp, 1980).
Planning does not need to be necessary for prenatal attachment to transpire. Women initially become attached to the idea of pregnancy and gradually cultivate an attachment for the foetus and her future (Muller, 1993). Once confirmed and accepted, women experiencing unplanned pregnancies will commence bonding with their unborn (Peppers & Knapp, 1980).
Research tools to measure prenatal attachment have been developed to measure the extent to which women practise and demonstrate behaviours that imply a relationship with their unborn child, such as Cranely’s (1981) Maternal Foetal Attachment Scale and Muller’s (1993) Prenatal Attachment Inventory. Reports using these tools suggest body image, self image and quality of relationship with the woman’s partner can influence the way a woman attaches to her foetus (Muller, 1993). Additionally, gestational age and quickening have been found to be consistent in correlating with the development of prenatal attachment (Muller, 1993).